The announcement last September by Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley that the over-ambitious I.T. National Project for the NHS was to be scrapped has heralded a new era in Information Technology for NHS Trusts – where hospitals can choose their own systems.

At the time of the scrapping, the I.T. National Project had already ratcheted up a cost to taxpayers of over £12 billion, and had generally under-delivered amidst contractual disputes between the government and suppliers.

The problem was that the I.T. National Project was too complex and not sufficiently agile to keep pace with fast changing technology.

As a result of the decision to scrap the project, many hospitals, primary care trusts and specialist health providers have been left with I.T. requirements which now urgently need to be fulfilled.

It was recognised when the I.T. National Project started back in 2002 that the NHS was years behind the private sector (and even other parts of the public sector) in making use of I.T. to achieve much-need efficiency gains and cost savings.

Clinicians and administrators want deliverable I.T. systems that simply work and help them fulfil their workloads and targets. Ironically, the smaller, more agile technology providers that are best suited to delivering tangible results have up to now been unable to bring their products or expertise to the health service, except by sub-contracting to one of the principle suppliers. The reasons why it’s been difficult for the niche software and systems provider include a combination of squeezed costs, procurement burden and onerous technical standards.

Despite this, Blueberry has been working with its health sector customer base over recent years to cut through bureaucratic red tape and provide reliable solutions at the point of healthcare delivery.

Blueberry Managing Director, Martin Green, said: “We’ve worked closely with innovative private sector companies as well as forward thinking NHS Trusts to build up a strong capability in the NHS sector.

“We’ve also developed a number of excellent products - such as our BIMS in-patient system - and are currently developing an Electronic Patient Records system, which will fill the gap in the market left by the scrapping of the anticipated national system.”

With the I.T. National Project now dead, there is a real need for NHS I.T. providers who are unencumbered by a history of under-delivery into the sector, and can demonstrate a track record of delivering systems on time and budget.

As procurement restrictions are lifted and the NHS marketplace opens up to smaller and specialist providers, there is at last a real opportunity for Trusts to explore innovative solutions that work for them locally, tailored to the specific requirements of the local healthcare delivery.

One lesson amongst many from the failed programme is that “one size does not fit all” in the complex world of NHS information management.

The popular size now is “small”.

David Lee, Blueberry Health